Category Archives: copyright

How not to write women

A couple of years back I linked to Kate Elliott’s post about omniscient breasts — writing from a woman’s POV but still using the male gaze. For example, the woman is constantly aware of her awesome breasts and how good they look, as if she were a man checking herself out. Well here’s some really bad omniscient breasts. More notable because the dude (unidentified) claimed his book proved men could write women well. Protagonist refers to herself having “a nice set of curves if I do say so myself,” and  “pants so impossibly tight that if I had had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date.” (I’ll link again to Foz Meadows’ discussion of writing hot women).

Another female author discusses a male author (unnamed) who insists his book has been rejected because of the feminazi conspiracy in publishing.

Molly Ringwald looks back at the sexism of John Hughes films.

In defending the hiring of now-fired Kevin Williamson, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg said he wanted Williamson as “an excellent reporter who covers parts of the country, and aspects of American life, that we don’t yet cover comprehensively.” Take it from a local city government reporter, Mr. Goldberg, covering “parts of the country” means writing about things like new developments, local elections, school events. It does not mean writing conservative articles about the evils of abortion or the horrors of black inner-city areas. Those parts of the country may agree with Williamson, but by no definition is he covering them.

Copyright kept a film about Martin Luther King from using his speeches.

“historical accuracy” is not a good reason for writing about rape. Unless you’re also writing about cholera, dysentery and the like.

Amazon may be stripping rankings from erotic books to avoid legal issues.

 

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Books are too expensive, so it’s okay to pirate them. Oh, really?

While I liked the book Brand Name Bullies, one thing that didn’t go over so well was David Bollier apparently buying into the stock anti-copyright/pro-piracy arguments (some of this is my interpretation so if I’m getting him wrong I apologize). As lots of people will create for free, do we really need copyright to have a thriving culture? If the industry would just make the price more reasonable, or release the album/book/DVD immediately, people would be happy to buy it.

I blogged about some of these arguments a couple of years back, but I’d like to take this post to argue again against the “they’re just too expensive” stance. This is the view that the price of books, or at least ebooks is too high so hey, you shouldn’t have to pay that much, so hey, you’re entitled to steal.

First off, let’s point out the obvious: some people just want their books free. Ditto music.

Second, how exactly are the people who make this argument calculating the “right” price? Are they assuming it’s the labor of putting the book in digital form — laying it out, editing it, creating a digital file? Do they consider the cost of paying for the cover, or publicity? Do they include the value of the actual story itself, because that’s why the book has, you know, words instead of just being a bunch of blank pages. And why, other than I Want It do they assume their assessment of the price is better than the author/publisher? As John Scalzi points out, even physical books of similar size and format don’t cost the same for lots of valid reasons.

To take an obvious example, the price of my self-published books is based on a)a price I think the market will accept; b)a price that gives me an adequate return on my effort. That takes into account that the online bookstores that sell the ebook (or Createspace for physical copies) take a cut; I have to set a price large enough to cover them. Believe me it’s not a substantial return, but what if it was? I’m the one who produced it, I have the right to set a price. If it’s more than the market will bear, people won’t buy it. Except the “you should have made it cheaper” people don’t accept that. They figure they should be able to get the book if they want it and not pay me anything (I’m willing to bet if I had a PayPal or Patreon they wouldn’t be contributing the “fair” price to compensate).

I have no sympathy for this crap. In the many years I did the struggling-writer shtick, I saw lots of books I couldn’t afford. I didn’t steal copies. I wouldn’t do it if I were still struggling. If it was a paper copy, would they shoplift it from Barnes & Noble if they thought it was overpriced? Or how about a restaurant — if the service takes too long (the “they don’t release it fast enough” argument), does that mean they’re entitled to steal food from the salad bar? Soft drinks cost a fraction of what they sell for, does that make it okay to steal them? Or movie tickets — lord knows those are outrageously priced, but does that justify sneaking in without paying?

One argument I see occasionally is that because digital copies are so cheap and easy to replicate, pirating one of them doesn’t hurt the way stealing something physical does. I don’t think that holds up: stealing one copy of Dan Brown’s latest from Barnes & Noble or swiping some breadsticks from Olive Garden certainly won’t cause a massive shortage. Sure, if everyone did that, it would be a problem, but that’s true of ebooks. If 100 people pirate Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, that’s around $100 out of my pocket. That won’t leave me in the poorhouse, but it’s not nothing (and for people who aren’t two-income families, $100 could be very significant indeed).

I realize even if my readers include pro-piracy types, I’m unlikely to change anything. But still, it’s worth saying.

#SFWApro. Image courtesy of Wikimedia, from Charles Elms’ The Pirates’ Own Book.

 

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Assorted writing-related links, mostly about copy (and related) rights issues (#SFWApro)

Not all related to writing though. For example, the Supreme Court has ruled that cheerleader uniforms can be copyrighted, which is a big break from past. Though I admit the difference between “copyright the design elements” and “copyright the uniforms” still isn’t clear to me.

•A bong-maker must pay Starbucks almost a half-million for its use of “Dabbacino.”

•Lucasfilm is none too happy with the operator of the Lightsaber Academy.

•Bob Segar’s albums aren’t staying around physically, there’s no digital versions — will his work fade away?

•No, a printer company’s patents do not give it the right to tell you which toner cartridge you use.

•A National Review writer says the Bechdel test for movies (are there more than two women in the film? Do they talk to each other? About something other than the hero?) is as silly as rating a movie by whether it has cowboys in it.

•A federal court has rejected one patent troll’s claim that they own the rights to podcasting.

•Atari says Nestle ripped off a classic videogame for a TV commercial.

•Has Google become a generic term?

•A racist YouTube video used a Marvel cosplayer’s image without their consent.

•A streaming service that lets you edit out cussing/bare boobs/etc. to your own taste doesn’t have the right to make those cuts.

•I’ve heard of books gaming the bestseller lists before, but this is an extreme case.

•I didn’t realize San Diego Comic-Con claims a trademark on Comic-Con and apparently variations of the name.

•The creator of Pepe the Frog shut down a publisher using Pepe in racist children’s books. Said publisher will have to pay the settlement in the case to the Council on American Islamic Relations.

 

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I haven’t done a writing related link post in a while … (#SFWApro)

So let’s clean out some bookmarks related to writing, copyright, trademarks …. First, a look at Will Eisner splash pages, some great examples of visual storytelling. Case in point, the cover above (art by Eisner, all rights reside with current holder).

•Have a look at the octopus as a visual symbol of evil reaching out.

The wit of Oscar Wilde.

•An appeals court has ruled that despite the use of “Google” as a verb, Google hasn’t become a generic word (which could cancel out Google as a trademark).

Mindfulness and writing.

•Writing tips from Joss Whedon.

•An argument in praise of strong female villains.

•A coffee shop puts up a handwritten sign in its window, “Plainville Now Runs on Mike’s,” a play on Dunkin’ Donuts’ slogan. Dunkin cries trademark infringement. And General Mills has argued a Doughboy bakery violates its Pillsbury trademark.

•Speaking of trademarks, the Supreme Court has struck down a rule against approving offensive trademarks. And some companies are rushing to exploit the opening.

•The Electronic Freedom Foundation is suing the FBI to find out more about using Best Buy’s Geek Squad as informants. Of interest to any of us who work on our computers, I think.

•A photographer has filed suit against apparel companies he says violated his copyright on a Tupac Shakur photo.

•Mystery novelist Sherry Harris on writing thinking scenes.

•Sony is releasing “clean” versions of films designed for airplane viewing to the general public. Some directors object.

•The Supreme Court has declined to hear the Dancing Baby copyright case.

•A look at the women who helped create Dungeons and Dragons. Though it’s really weird the author references Andre Norton as the woman who wrote Quag Keep (a D&D-influenced novel) and doesn’t mention it was only one of well over 100 books she wrote.

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Copyright, fandom, sexism and other writing links (#SFWApro)

Why the Comedian’s smiley-face button can’t appear in European comics.

•The problem of comics piracy websites. And more on the same topic.

•Kameron Hurley on refusing your editors’ requests.

•New York Governor Andrew Cuomo makes a baffling amount of royalty payments on his memoir.

•What people say to women writers.

•Brianna Wu on sexual harassment at SF cons and the desire some organizers have to forgive the assailant.

•Esther Jones writers about anti-gay activists picketing Norwescon.

•Mary Robinette Kowal on spotting problems with her handling of race in one of her novels. Though I’m sorry, I honestly don’t agree that ” Once the story is out of my hands, each individual reader’s interpretation is valid and correct.” Some interpretations just ain’t right (I will come back to this in another post).

•An Irish burger chain has no sympathy for McDonald’s claim that all eateries with “mac” infringe their trademark.

•Writer Tara Sperling argues that Amazon changes the way we write by the way it classifies books. I’m not entirely convinced, or convinced that it’s new—I’ve seen a few stories well before Amazon that read like someone tacked on an SF or supernatural element to get them out of “mainstream.”

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Writing and copyright links (#SFWApro)

I’d planned something deeper, but I’m too zonked.

•The Supreme Court OKs a patent on cheerleader uniforms. The majority says it’s just about the decorative parts of the uniform; the dissenters say the ruling still goes too far.

•Wicked Cozy Authors on what drives readers away from a series (here’s my own thoughts on the same topic).

•Vulture on why Netflix should have given us an Asian-American Iron Fist rather than a white guy. Matt Foster looks at the general weakness of Iron Fist (I’ve only seen one episode so far, but it didn’t impress me). Atomic Junk Shop argues that keeping the Bronze Age origin and race is part of respecting the source material — but I can’t see that “white guy” is an essential part of the character. And the first episode isn’t respectful at all (hey, let’s turn the story of a martial-arts super hero into a dull soap opera!).

•Justina Ireland argues it’s a mistake to make up oppressed races in a fantasy world rather than tie the setting to real-world discrimination. And that redeeming racists is a plotline that’s geared strictly to white audiences. I haven’t had time to think whether I agree with her, but they’re interesting enough to link to.

•Robert Nielsen looks at cultural appropriation and the Irish — the use of Celtic symbols by white supremacists and “Plastic paddies” who move to Ireland and go native.

•Jim C. Hines has completed his annual survey of novelist incomes.

•The great comics artist Berni Wrightson (cover by Wrightson, all rights to current holder) died this week.

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Fandom, sexism and other writing-related links (#SFWApro)

Foz Meadows looks at the assumption talking about race and representation in YA is, itself, racist. After all, you’re talking about how many black or women or gay characters are in fiction, so obviously you’re not seeing them as people, just diversity hires (so to speak), right? No, as detailed at the link.

•No, comics are not innately a man’s world. Women were involved in comic strips and comic books even before second-wave feminism started.

•SF and comics are not the only creative field with a history of sexism.

•Atomic Junk Shop looks at the roots of sexism in comics fandom (I’ve linked to this before, I know, but it seemed to fit in two different posts).

•Freelancer Renae deLiz had a big hit with Legend of Wonder Woman but her relationship with DC has been less than amicable. Heidi McDonald looks at the history (which includes some crowdfunded projects that did not deliver as planned) and the tricky questions of freelancer vs. corporation.

•Need images? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has them online for free.

•Fake news as a tool for promoting a movie?

•Duke’s Center for the Public Domain puts out a comic-book explaining fair use.

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Copyright and other writing-related links (#SFWApro)

Here’s one for copyright nerds: a lawsuit over whether a play can use a small segment of the classic Who’s on First? routine. The first ruling on the Abbott and Costello joint estates’ claim was that the segment was fair use. A Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it wasn’t fair use, but that the copyright has passed into the public domain (the discussion at the link focuses on the convoluted arguments over whether Universal ever held copyright and if so, whether the estates reclaimed it).

•Is “Tiffany” a reference to jewels sold by Tiffany’s, or just a style? A jury rules Costco owes $5.5 million for selling “Tiffany” rings that aren’t from Tiffany’s.

•A site lets you rip YouTube music clips into MP3s. The recording industry sues.

•An artist sues because Kohls allegedly uses her designs without her OK. And the estate of artist Dash Snow charges McDonalds has copied his work illegally.

•Some Louisiana strippers are suing over a law that bars dancers under 21, on the grounds it violates their free speech rights. Not exactly writing related, but First Amendment is close enough.

•A Fox news anchor sued over a toy hamster from Hasbro that shares her name. The case has been dismissed.

•How do you reconnect with a story after taking a break?

•Kristine Kathryn Rusch on satisfying reader expectations.

•US goverment propagandist Guy Sims Fitch never existed.

•Ebook sales are down, audiobook sales are up.

troubles•Good-looking first editions from the 1970s. Don’t know the artist, all rights to cover art belong with current holder.

•I was never completely comfortable with the scene where the Comedian rapes Silk Spectre in Watchmen. I’d come to to think I was an outlier, but I’m not alone.

•Peter Thiel financed lawsuits against Gawker and broke the company. What does that imply about legal risks for freelancers?

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The illegal download is coming from inside the house! (#SFWApro)

Some copyright and media related links for Thursday (title refers to a line from 1979’s When a Stranger Calls).

•Warner Brothers recently demanded Google take down dozens of allegedly infringing websites … including Warner Brothers’ own websites.

•Last year a German company with some aggressive views on copyright demanded a list of takedowns including Skype, Dropbox and Whatsapp.

•Another reminder that archiving online doesn’t guarantee permanence.

•Pirate Joe’s is a Canadian company that buys Trader Joe’s merchandise and sells it at markup north of the border. Trader Joe’s has some issues.

•Mark Zuckerberg insists Facebook is not a media company. Consumerist suggests he’s mistaken.

•A proposed change in European copyright law could require news aggregators such as Google News to pay the media for using their material.

•You may recall the “monkey selfie” dispute over whether a human photographer could claim copyright to pictures a macaque shot with his camera. Another aspect to the dispute is whether the monkey can hold copyright.

•The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups have asked the FTC to require labeling locked digital content.

•”He couldn’t see a belt without hitting beneath it” and other classic political insults.

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Free or Not Free, and other writing and copyright topics (#SFWApro)

Ebooks cost authors time and money to publish. The Fussy Librarians site offers free ebooks as a promotion for authors, but points out that if you only read for free, that’s bad news for the writers. Shannon A. Thompson argues that nevertheless free readers are a net gain.

I’m not sure this is even a new issue. For years I lived off what I could buy in used-book stores, which accounts for some of the randomness in my collection. That changes when I have more money to spare than at the moment, but even then spend a lot on discount books—the more expensive it is, the more I want to buy used—and library books. Actual new purchases tend to be few and far between.

•A good article on the problems of writing Y/A bisexuals (hat tip Shannon A. Thompson). For example, if a character ends up with a same-sex or opposite-sex partner, readers often conclude the bi character “really” gay or straight. I’m pretty sure a lot of the issues are applicable to non-Y/A writing.

•Like women, male characters in comics often have absurdly idealized bodies (and more so than they used to—the Hulk in the early Silver Age was much more ordinary physically than he is today). But no, it’s not the same sort of sexual objectification. Hulk, for example, isn’t drawn anywhere near as sex-fantasy as She-Hulk. The link identifies Namor’s lean swimmer’s physique as the only male hero who’s really what women would consider sexy but I think Dick Grayson counts too (I’ll get into that when I review the Grayson series TPBs).

•Now that Charter has merged with Time Warner it thinks it should get some content (Fox News specifically) at Time Warner’s lower rate. Fox disagrees.

•With Matt Damon set to star in the Chinese epic The Great Wall, actor Constance Wu asks why China needs a white guy to save it.

•So the World Fantasy Con has displeased some writers this year with its programming slate: very white male-focused. Foz Meadows puts in historical context as well: Robert Aiken and Arthur Machen got a lot more programming in their anniversary years than horror writer Shirley Jackson is this year (her centennary). She also argues some of the panel descriptions seem clueless about current fantasy.

•A list of bad habits for characters.

•Rebekkah Niles on jewelry-making as a model for writing.

•In a case involving a YouTube video, the poster claims fair use of some incidental background music. Universal, which had it taken down on copyright grounds, argues it shouldn’t have to consider fair use before issuing a warning.

•Citi argues AT&T using “thanks” in a loyalty program catchphrase violates Citi’s own trademarked catchphrase.

•Capitol Records and others are suing Vimeo, charging among other things that Vimeo employees turned a blind eye to pirated material in video postings. A court has ruled that just because employees see a video, that doesn’t mean they must have realized it was pirated.

•Gawker has sold its affiliates sites to Univision in the wake of a lawsuit that broke the camel’s back. A lot of people are discomfited even if they dislike Gawker because businessman Peter Thiel (whom Gawker outed) poured millions of his own money into the lawsuit (by Hulk Hogan)—what’s to stop the same thing from happening to any media site that crosses someone with serious money? LGM points out Thiel’s list of Gawker’s sins focuses on stories involving rich people. The Atlantic looks at the issues.

•Speaking of crappy reporting, don’t tell someone you’re reporting on that their adoptive parents are not really their parents. Outing gay athletes from homophobic nations is even worse.

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